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It’s obvious that having a baby isn’t easy. Not only does your body carry and give birth to a tiny human, you then have to care for and raise this newborn. It’s no wonder that 9-16% of new moms will experience postpartum depression due to a combination of genetics, hormones, predisposition, support or lack of support, and stress. There was a time when postpartum depression was written off and women had to suffer in silence, but that is thankfully changing.
Look for the Signs
Having a baby comes with many physical and psychological strains including physical recovery, emotionally adapting to new motherhood and loss of sleep. Because of that, it can sometimes be difficult to identify postpartum depression apart from the standard stresses of new motherhood.
If you’ve recently given birth, here are eight possible symptoms to look out for:
1. Guilt or shame: Do you feel like you should be doing better at new motherhood? Are you constantly thinking statements beginning with “I should” and feeling like you don’t deserve to be a mom? You might feel worthless or believe that your parenting skills are inferior. Even worse, sharing these thoughts with others doesn’t feel like an option. You may go to great lengths to keep these feelings a secret from others out of fear that others would judge you, or worse, take your baby away.
2. You can’t be reassured: With a new baby, it’s normal to feel anxious and even overwhelmed at times, but the reassuring words of a partner or friend can often put your anxieties to rest. However, with postpartum depression, it can feel impossible to trust reassurance. You might even feel like people are lying to you when they say “everything will be okay.”
3. Fantasies of escape: Joking about needing a vacation is one thing. But if you’re having real fantasies about leaving home and never coming back, because you believe your family would be better off without you, this is likely a sign of postpartum depression. These fantasies can even be suicidal. If these feelings persist even with support and a good night’s rest, it’s important to seek help.
- Note: If thoughts of suicide are more than just passing thoughts, or you have a plan of doing it, get help immediately. You can even call 911.
4. Feeling constantly overwhelmed: Feeling overwhelmed at times during new motherhood is simply part of the equation. But if you’re suffering from postpartum depression, you feel overwhelmed most or all of the time. You may feel like you’re not capable of being a mom and that having a baby was a huge mistake.
5. Not loving your baby: Many mothers take a while to bond with their babies. But if you feel no affection for your baby, don’t want to take care of them or even look at them, this is a sign of postpartum depression.
6. Feeling inadequate: Are you constantly worried that you aren’t good enough, can’t be a mother, and that your baby may be damaged because of something you did or didn’t do? You may feel that you’re a defective, incompetent mother, ashamed that you can’t or don’t want to breastfeed, or feel that you didn’t give birth “the right way.
7. Anger and irritability: Every new mother snaps once in awhile, but postpartum depression can involve constant anger and irritability towards your partner or others who interact with you. It can even result in resentment towards your baby.
8. Feeling like your baby knows you’re a fraud: You might feel like your baby senses that you’re unfit to be a mother and, as a result, they resent you and don’t love you.
Remember…It’s Not Forever
Bringing a baby into the world is an exhausting and often overwhelming process. But if you find yourself constantly miserable and resentful, or feel like you’re losing your mind, you may be suffering from a legitimate illness and deserve to get help.
Luckily, postpartum depression is treatable. Resources like postpartumprogress.org offer lots of information and support for new moms suffering from this condition. Your healthcare provider should also be able to direct you to the treatment you need.
It’s very important to remember is that this common illness doesn’t make you a bad mom! In fact, reaching out for help is the best thing you can do for your baby, your family and yourself.
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